The Art of Writing: Interview with Best-Selling Children's Author Lin Oliver

Full confession: when I happened upon Lin Oliver at a tiny book fair in Pasadena a couple of months ago, I hadn't remembered she was co-founder and Executive Director of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), the largest professional organization in the field of children's writing.

I just knew I loved the concept of her new children's series, The Fantastic Frame. In these chapter books, her kid protagonists leap into the frames of classic art. In Another Messy Sunday, they find themselves in 19th-century Paris after jumping into Seurat's famous pointillist painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (I jumped into that one myself when I performed in Stephen Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park with George in college!).

When I later learned Lin had co-founded SCBWI as a 21-year-old aspiring children's author, I was filled with admiration. Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser have given all aspiring children's writers a great gift: a nurturing home, a fellowship of creative companions, and a rotation of workshops and conferences where we can hone our skills at a craft that we love.

I'm deeply honored that Lin Oliver is my Short & Snappy interviewee today!


CSM: What inspired you to combine fantasy with art history in your latest series, the Fantastic Frame?

LO: Sadly, art is not being taught in many public schools, and it is such a loss.  Since kids love adventure and fantasy, the idea of creating a series where kids get to have thrilling adventures inside the frame of one of the world’s great masterpieces seemed like it would be both exciting concept and a great way to experience art.

CSM: I'm particularly drawn to the Latina character in the series, Luna Lopez. Could you speak to the importance of diversity in children's writing?

LO: The lack of diversity in children’s books is shocking.  Only recently has this been acknowledged and we are all trying to remedy the situation.  Luna Lopez is the co-hero of The Fantastic Frame.  She is not meant to be conspicuously a role model---she’s just an example of so many first generation Hispanic kids born in this country with a multi-cultural heritage.   

CSM: Why was it important to you to create a young character with learning challenges in your best-selling series, Hank Zipper (co-authored with Henry Winkler)?

LO: One in five children in America has a learning challenge.  It’s important for them to see themselves well and truthfully represented in the pages of a book.  These are not disabled kids---they happen to learn differently and deserve to have their many talents and types of intelligence showcased.

CSM: As co-founder of SCBWI, what is your vision for the future of children's literature?

LO: I believe much of the hope for the future is in the hands of people who create books for children and young people.  Their compassion, understanding and wisdom is, in so many cases, more inspiring than our politicians.  Trust the artists and writers….they seek truth and provide hope.

CSM: What advice would you have for parents seeking to nurture creativity in their children?

LO: Watch to see what interests your children, and provide them with all the tools and support you can to stimulate those interests.  Kids let you know what they love to do and think about.  As parents, we have to drop our agendas and allow kids to follow their own passions. 

Photo by Sonya Sones

Photo by Sonya Sones

Lin Oliver is a children’s book author and writer-producer of television series and movies for children.  With Henry Winkler, she writes the New York Times best-selling book series, Hank Zipzer: World’s Best Underachiever, which has sold over 4 million copies and is a hit television series on the BBC. Their new chapter book series, Here’s Hank, is also a New York Times best-seller. She is also the author of the Who Shrunk Daniel Funk quartet, Sound Bender and The Shadow Mask, adventure/science fiction middle grade novels she coauthored with Theo Baker.  Her collection of poetry, the highly praised Little Poems for Tiny Ears, illustrated by Tomie dePaola, is being followed with another poetry collection, Steppin’ Out: Playful Rhymes for Toddler Times. Her new chapter book series, The Fantastic Frame, debuted in April of this year from Grosset.  Lin is the co-founder and Executive Director of SCBWI. Learn more at or follow Lin on Twitter @linoliver.

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